The life of an inventor seems exciting. Leisurely days spent tinkering away in the lab until the big day finally arrives when you reach the inevitable “Eureka!” moment that leads you to a life of luxury.
Unfortunately, the life of an inventor is rarely so easy. The reality is, it can be downright tough.
don’t tinker so much as you toil, day after day, first to breathe life into your idea and then to ensure your invention is safeguarded, your financing is secure, and your product makes it safely out of the realm of conceptual into the land of commercial success. And trust us, there are plenty of pitfalls along the way, even for those who are prepared.
The good news–for a very select few, that is–is that the end result of the invention equates to commercial success. To help maximize your chances for success, there are three main steps you can take today to make your invention one of the lucky ones.
PROTECT YOUR INVENTION.
Prepare Your Invention for the Patent Application Process.
Many inventors experience concerns about protecting their inventions. While it may seem unlikely that another individual or business would attempt to take credit for your invention, the truth is that in some industries, competition is fierce, and in the end, the spoils go to those who file their patent applications first. Because of this, it’s crucial for today’s inventor to move their invention along the new product development cycle as quickly as they can. That doesn’t mean submitting a half-baked idea to the the U.S. Patent Office. It simply means taking the steps early on to ensure you have the proof you need to submit the proper paperwork when the time comes to do so.
Documentation and detail are the keys to making that happen. Your ideas can’t be patented, so the earlier you can add enough detail to your invention to prove it’s more than an abstract idea the better. Documentation should be incorporated from Day One, and it should be as thorough as possible at every stage of your development.
Helpful Resources: LegalZoom is one resource that can assist you with preparing for your patent application, whether that’s helping you perform a patent search to ensure your new product is original, or filing legal paperwork related to starting your business.
The Rule of Thumb: Once you think your product is ready to apply for patent, it’s good to take a gut check by asking yourself an important question. Does your documentation provide enough specifications that it could be replicated by someone else? If your answer is yes, move along to the next step: patent searching and patent application. If not, you still have some work to do, and further documentation will be required before you move on to Stage 2.
CREATE A MARKETING AND BUSINESS PLAN.
Now that you’ve got your product protected under patent, what’s the next step?
Hopefully by now, you’re already starting on your marketing and business plan. Sure, you have a great product idea that’s now patented, but the truth is this means little to nothing without a market to buy it. By doing your due diligence, conducting market research, and creating a solid business plan, you ensure the money you spend on your patent is money well spent.
Market research will help you identify several things:
- Potential size of market
- Market competition Feasibility of product success
In addition, creating a business plan will help you clearly define:
- Product features and benefits
- Product development plan
Once these are in place, building your marketing plan to address how you’ll get your product in front of these audiences is key. There are two main ways to bring your products to market. The first is to market, manufacture, and distribute the product on your own. While this takes a lot of effort, there are also potentially high payoffs financially, and you may find that you’re more in control of your timeline.
The second option is to find businesses to help you market, manufacture, and distribute your product. However, your second option of finding a business to distribute for you can be quite challenging since many businesses want to see proven success before investing.
FIND A MANUFACTURING PARTNER
Finding a manufacturing partner you can trust doesn’t have to seem like finding a needle in a haystack. By asking a few key questions, you can identify a manufacturer that has your best interests in mind.
Questions You Should Ask Your Manufacturer
- Do you have experience working with inventors?
- Do you provide design and prototyping support for your customers?
- Can you assist with design changes that may be needed to improve production?
- Do you have experience with small and medium volume production? Ramping production?
READY TO GET STARTED?
Bringing a new invention to life is an exciting process, and luckily there are a wide range of resources available for those who need it, from national organizations like InventHelp to local groups like the South Coast Inventor’s Group, an all volunteer run small business development group in North Bend, Oregon. The South Coast Inventors Group consists mostly of business professionals and inventors. The group meets monthly to provide advice and mentorship to inventors who are looking to develop their new products.
“Many of the people who come to our group do so in the very early stages of their product development,” says Club President James Innes. “They have a great idea but they don’t know what to do next. We invite them to attend our meetings, share what they’ve been up to, and receive helpful feedback and mentorship from the group to help them decide their next steps.”
“We’ve seen some very successful ideas over the years. The South Coast Inventor’s Group provides the supportive environment these inventors need to move their development forward.”
When asked what steps were most important at these early stages, Mr. Innes told us:
“First off, you need to find out if your product is unique. Even if it isn’t, as an entrepreneur you may have a different spin on things, and that can help you be successful even with a product that’s similar to another already out there.”
Mr. Innes also emphasizes the importance of creating product prototypes during product development.
“Your first prototype will almost never work exactly as you think it will. You can start with a very basic at-home mock-up, then fine-tune it before you speak with a manufacturer to get a working prototype. Once you’ve got a rough prototype that functions the way you want, go talk to a manufacturing vendor.”
“Ask to talk with your manufacturer’s design engineering team. They will be able to meet with you to discuss DFM, or Design for Manufacture, which can provide you with suggestions to improve your design so you save you a lot of time and money when it comes time to manufacture.”
By following these steps now, you can avoid many of the potential pitfalls others have experienced when bringing their new products to market.
Have additional questions? Contact KASO Plastics today for more information.
Unfortunately, there are some firms out there that will try to take advantage of inventors’ inexperience bringing new products to market. Beware of any group asking for a high upfront fee for services such as invention assessment or promotion.
Some firms make all kinds of crazy claims about their success rates; a reputable firm will be clear about its successes, and provide you with the information you need to find out if those claims are valid. Ask for this information, and ask to talk to recent clients who can discuss their experiences with you.
Ultimately, if it feels ‘fishy’, walk away. There are a multitude of options available to you, don’t go with a solution that doesn’t feel right for you and your invention.